I Know ME in Action

American students discover Canada 

11 students from the I Know ME program (sister program to the Game Loft) explored neighboring New Brunswick, Canada during the week of August 24-28 . On the first day they were graciously received by the mayor of Saint John, Her Worship  Donna Leonard and Trevor Holder a Member of the Legislative Assembly from Saint John. The youth explored the history, geography, geology, art, people, places and food of our nearest Canadian neighbor. At the end of the week, they were able to contrast Maine and New Brunswick and gained a deeper understanding of the long relationship of Maine to the Maritime Provinces. Meeting the mayor and MLA were, from left to right: Devyn Freeman, Molly Thibault (AmeriCorps member), Desmin Littlefield, Wyatt Manieri (AmeriCorps member), Daniel Leonard, Joe Leonard, Linford Young, Gavin Bradstreet, Brian Phelps, Ray Estabrook, Dakota Freeman, Tyson Downs, Damien Hutchinson, Autumn Fletcher and Patricia Estabrook. 

I Know ME in Action

The More Things Change…

One of my heroes is Frances Willard, crusader of the late 19th century. Her motto was “do everything!” And with that motto in mind the I Know ME program made our first movie. Ms. Willard did not say, “Do everything perfectly” or most of us would never launch into a new project. For us at the I Know ME program “Do everything” means “try everything.”

And so, in the spring of 2022 the I Know ME program went where we had never been before, we made our first movie. Thanks to Ned Lightner of Belfast Community Media, the results are far better than we had any right to expect but if nominated we will not accept the Academy Award. We invite you to join us on July 11 at 6:30 PM in Dreamland at the Colonial Theater in Belfast to see our effort, “The More Things Change.” The film runs approximately one hour and the showing is free with donations accepted. After the film we will be having a brief discussion with the cast and crew about their experiences and reflections on 19thcentury life. 

Unlike a feature film or even a TikTok video, the purpose of this film is help kids understand the past and how it relates to the present. The themes are school policy and bullying, topics that never seem to go out of style. The actors and crew members helped shaped the story and create the scenes and dialogue. 

We invite you to our world premiere of the film, knowing its weaknesses but also applauding its strengths. For the kids it was an opportunity to create and to reflect on education throughout the ages as well as “living” in 19th century Maine. For the adults it was a memorable time of seeing our vision come to life. 

We thank the Penobscot Historical Society for lending us their beautiful re-creation village for our filming. 

For more information about “The More Things Change” please call Ray Estabrook at 207-322-3229. 

The Game Loft in Action

Let there be Pax on Earth, the Game Loft/I Know ME explores 19th century international history

Look at the picture to the left and what do you see? You might see four goofy kids talking with an even goofier older woman (me). What do I see? I see four diplomats representing Japan, Russia, Italy, and France in the 1890’s discussing the state of the world with a member of the press corps. You see, if just takes a little imagination. In April imagination met with factual learning in the Game Loft’s annual Pax Britannica event. Eight teams of youth and adults spent a full April vacation day exploring the events that led to the First World War. What is even more surprising is that these young people are not the ones who are normally enamored of education, in fact many of them are struggling, but they gladly spent a day talking about colonization, trade routes, negotiated settlements, treaties, alliances, and coaling rights in the far distant past. 

The object of the game is to re-create the period between 1888 and 1916 and to grab as much territory as possible without upsetting the balance of power and causing the Great War. Although the details differ slightly from actual events, the spirit of colonial expansion is the same. Most kids would not say that those topics inspired them to spend a spring day indoors. In Pax Britannica nations must balance the pressures from their own countries for greater revenue and power with the need to keep the lid on what is a boiling pot of international controversies. The countries that are timid will lose but causing the Great War also means defeat. 

The kids poured over maps, created strategies, negotiated, delegated, gave interviews, and interpreted a set of rules that are worthy of an international treaty. What caused this dedication? We didn’t let them know that this was “educational.”

Linford Young, Pax Britannica veteran and high school senior galvanized the room with his eloquent address as the president of the United States. He was able to use his skills and knowledge to get to victory in the game. 

Thank you to our AmeriCorps members who led the event and mentored the less experienced teams. 

Many of the players in Pax Britannica 2022 were new to the game but their grasp of complex issues was heartening. In particular, the coalition of several powers: Russia, France, Italy, Japan, and Austria-Hungary created a proto-League of Nations. In all the many years of playing Pax Britannica I have never seen a time before this where war was averted and nation depended on nation for peace and goodwill. I was truly moved by the spirit of compromise they showed. 

Imparting knowledge and wisdom is the work of schools, but it is a pleasure when afterschool can add a unique perspective to the education process. 

I Know ME in Action

Observe, Reason, Plan, Create

What’s the difference between people and fish? This should have a snappier punch-line than I can offer but in short, the difference is instinct. Fish live their lives according to instinct and fate but humans must be taught to observe, reason, plan and create. 

At the Craig Brook Fish Hatchery recently the I Know ME cohort 1 learned about the lives of Atlantic Salmon from birth in the hatchery to release in the wild and then returning to the hatchery to deposit their eggs. I Know ME Cohort 1 visited a cohort of salmon that have been in the hatchery since 2018, the year the kids entered the I Know ME program. The salmon will be released later this year, but our kids have one more year with the program. While the fish have spent the last five years just swimming and eating the kids have traveled around the state, seen sights, met people, and learned about themselves and their environment. 

Cohort 5, who entered the I Know ME program in February 2022 are just beginning their journey to self-realization. Last month they and their mentors went to the State House to meet their elected representatives and to see the state house and senate in session. They began the process of observation, discernment, and appreciation. Looking into the capitol rotunda they observed the beauty of the building and got an inkling of the dedication and service our elected officials bring to bear. 

  Cohort 5 met with Nate Wadsworth, Ray’s cousin and supporter of the Game Loft who once played his ancestor, General Peleg Wadsworth, in a Game Loft historical re-creation. They also met Paige Zieglaar and Chip Curry, the senator from Waldo County, who challenged them to follow a bill going through the legislature. As 7th graders these students are teetering at the edge of childhood but beginning to see their adult lives ahead.

 After a long morning of observing, considering, and learning it was important for the kids to cut loose. You can become a better adult if you have fully explored childhood so we took them to the playground to let off some steam. I Know ME stands for knowledge of the state and knowledge of self, because both are important. Because we don’t operate on instinct it is crucial to have this knowledge. Because unlike salmon who run on instinct, we believe that for humans “If you know who you are and where you’re from, you can find where you’re going.” 

I Know ME In Action: Our AmeriCorps Members

“It is through the idealism of youth that man catches sight of truth, and in that idealism he possesses a wealth which he must never exchange for anything else.”  — Albert Schweitzer

March 14-20 is AmeriCorps Week. AmeriCorps has been an important part of the work done at the Game Loft/I Know ME for many years. Our AmeriCorps members have provided direct service to Waldo County’s most vulnerable population: its children and youth. Members use their unique talents to serve as mentors for youth and examples of lives well lived. AmeriCorps members in this program strengthen our community while learning about themselves, their state, and their country. 

“Once I was young and now I am old” but I have never seen an AmeriCorps member who was deficient in the wealth of idealism. Their insight into this truth gives me strength and courage and keeps me participating in the AmeriCorps program. This year in the Game Loft/I Know ME program we are fortunate to have four young, idealistic, and capable AmeriCorps members who are helping young people know who they are, where they are from, and shining a light on where they may be going. It is my pleasure to introduce you to four AmeriCorps members who are changing the world for the better.

Wyatt Manieri is self-effacing. He leads quietly and without fanfare but with a genuine concern for those who excel, and more especially, for those falling by the wayside. He shows curiosity and concern for everyone he meets. As a recent college graduate he is anxious to learn about himself during his AmeriCorps year and to challenge himself to become a man who has made the right decisions in life. He wants to open a path for youth to help them find something significant to believe in. He thinks that if you find a youth’s deep interests that you can instill hope that will last even during the most trying times. He says that at the core of his beliefs is love. He believes that unselfish love is a route to happiness. Love of friends and family, community and country gives him contentment and meaning to life. He expresses his love for humankind through kindness and respect. At the end of his life he hopes his children will remember him a man who was humble, grateful, and content. 

Molly Thibault is expansive, extroverted, and enthusiastic. She is a natural leader with a great sense of organization and time management. She graduated from Unity College this February and has known for years that she wanted to have direct experience working with youth and showing them the glories of living in Maine. Her view of happiness is access to the outdoors and space to roam. Because the environment has been so important to her she hopes to share that enthusiasm with kids. She wants to be a role model who leads by example as well as opening doors for those who face barriers in their lives. Molly believes that there is enough for all if we use our resources wisely. She believes that small initiatives will someday pay big dividends for our communities, our state, and the world. She hopes her legacy will be: “Molly spent her life helping the world by teaching youth to be resilient and strong.”

Zachariah Dewey is a Mainer who embodies this state’s long tradition of service. Zach is in his second year as an AmeriCorps member for the Game Loft/I Know ME. He is a Peace Corps alumnus with a Master’s degree. What attracts such a highly qualified person to our program? He values idealism more than wealth and creativity more than commerce. This year he is raising awareness of the potential of the program and working to improve every aspect of the Game Loft/I Know ME service delivery for youth. He knows that in the end the good memories he leaves with others will be his greatest gifts to the world. Zach is a gamer and uses that enthusiasm to create relationships with youth and to give them hope. He says, “I won’t last forever but games will last. If we can play, then we can hope.” Someday he wants to found a coffee-house/bar with a game room where people can leave their problems at the door and create good times and happy memories. He hopes that someday the Game Loft/I Know ME kids will remember him as someone who facilitated good times and cool adventures. Zach says, “I see the world not as it is but as it should be and can be with my help.” 

Jeremiah King is the kind of young man who will help you walk through life, no matter what the challenges may be.  From long association with Jeremiah we know he will never let us down. Jeremiah joined the Game Loft when he was 8 years old. He graduated from Thomas College last June and returned to the Game Loft/I Know ME as an AmeriCorps member this January. Jeremiah thinks before he speaks and considers before he acts. When he speaks it is with wisdom and when he acts it is with deliberation. But when he plays he is creative, joyful, and spontaneous. In the year ahead he hopes to gain more real world experience that will help him grow as a person. He wants to develop deeper friendships with colleagues, youth, and community members in order to become his best self. 

AmeriCorps members serve for one or two years and during that time they help to change the world. We celebrate and thank all the dedicated men and women who have served the Game Loft/I Know ME through AmeriCorps. We are grateful for your dedication and sacrifice.

Patricia Estabrook is the co-Founding Director of the Game Loft/I Know ME and an AmeriCorps alumna.